Online dentistry course launched
A free online course in dentistry has been set up by one the UK's leading universities in a bid to encourage teenagers to think about studying for a degree in the subject.
Sheffield University, which is running the course, said that young people learn little about dentistry at school and the aim is to give pupils more information about the profession to help them decide whether to study it and to prepare for studying it at university.
The six-week programme, one of a new breed of courses known as "massive open online courses" (MOOC), is running on the FutureLearn website.
Christopher Stokes, senior teacher at Sheffield's School of Clinical Dentistry, said that even gaining an interview for a place on a dentistry degree course can be competitive, and the new MOOC would allow students to show university admissions tutors that they are serious about studying the subject.
The course curriculum is based on a two-year scheme run at Sheffield University which prepares students for a degree in dentisry.
Dr Stokes, who is also the Discover Dentistry MOOC's lead educator, said: " Medical and dental university courses are notoriously difficult to obtain a place on and to be successful requires more than just good grades at A-level.
"There is still much work to be done to support the under-represented groups trying to enter these professions.
"We are actively supporting these groups in getting the extra knowledge and skills they will need to compete for the places in dental schools across the country.
"By creating this free online course, we can now reach even more students, potentially equipping thousands of aspiring dentists from around the world for their dental school application.
"Securing even an interview for a university dentistry course can be difficult and competitive: potential students need excellent A-levels (or equivalent), evidence of relevant work experience and they must be able to prove that they have explored their career choice in depth.
"There is an additional hurdle in that students may also have to perform well in the UK Clinical Aptitude Test; a series of questions that test mental abilities, attitudes and professional behaviour required for new doctors and dentists to be successful."
Dr Stokes said that running the course will allow Sheffield to support more potential dental students preparing to apply to dental schools than they could do in 100 years of running their existing scheme.
"Completing the course will show university admission tutors that the student is serious about studying dentistry and will give them an experience and knowledge that will help set them apart in a highly competitive field," he said.
" It will also help them decide in an interactive environment if a career in dentistry is for them; something which web searches and watching YouTube clips just can't do."
The course, which is running now, covers topics such as common dental diseases, false teeth and the latest technology such as 3D printed teeth.
MOOCs are already popular in the US where there are a number of established online sites, including Coursera, which carries classes from top Ivy League universities such as Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Brown, as well institutions in other countries, like the University of Amsterdam and Peking University.
FutureLearn, the first UK-based hub, was launched last year.